Nowadays, most kids at age four are glued to the TV set, watching Disney movies. But when Kaitlin Hopkins was a tot, she was living the movies. The daughter of acclaimed actress Shirley Knight, Hopkins recalls being four years old and in Nebraska, where her mother was making The Rain People for director Francis Ford Coppola. "I remember him taking me for rides on his motorcycle," she says. "There was a wedding scene, and he let me be the flower girl. I thought, 'Acting is a great job. You get to ride motorcycles and twirl around in pretty dresses.'"
But that was the movies. Hopkins' love for the stage was cemented three years later. Her father, Gene Persson, co-produced the original production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. After its marathon off-Broadway run, which Hopkins saw "hundreds and hundreds" of times, the musical moved to Broadway. Because she already knew Charlie Brown so well, the seven-year-old would be escorted to the Biltmore Theatre to see Hair: "I watched that show time and time again and knew that's what I was going to do. Someday I was going to stand on a stage and sing."
And for almost two weeks, Hopkins (who took the name of her stepfather, playwright John Hopkins) will be standing on the Fox Theatre stage singing in Disney's On the Record, the touring revue that features some of the best-known songs from the vast Disney repertoire. While the show-in-progress pleases her ("the music is so beautifully arranged; it's a joy to sing"), she also looks forward to standing in the lobby after the matinees to sign copies of her first solo album, Make Me Sweat, of which she is immensely proud. Sweat's twelve bluesy pop songs were written by her boyfriend, Jim Price. The two met four years ago while appearing together in the off-Broadway hit Bat Boy: The Musical.
Many of the songs on the album are blatantly autobiographical. "Good Girls," for instance, concerns Hopkins' early teen years in New York City. "My parents had a ground-floor apartment in the West Village," she says. "At age thirteen I would climb out my window, climb over the fence and go out dancing all night. Then the next morning I'd go to school hung-over and miserable. Most of the girls in my class thought I was a hooligan. But those years defined me."
Hopkins got her Equity card at fourteen and for more than two decades has hardly paused for breath. But more important than her movie, television and stage credits is her attitude: Whenever an actress is needed for a new play reading or a benefit, Hopkins is there. She may not be a household name, but she has earned the esteem of her peers. Liam Neeson recently asked her to co-star with him in an upcoming New York revival of Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet.
Though that production is on hold, Hopkins' career is not -- not while there are still songs to be sung and CDs to be signed. For someone who's known what she wanted to do since age seven, life is good.